We’ve been seeing a stream of commentary over the last day or so about the death of Robin Williams, an actor beloved by so many people. I was shocked and saddened when I heard the news.
Death always saddens us, and particularly so when someone takes his own life. I think that for those of us who do not suffer from deep depression, it is inexplicable that someone would feel so bereft as to take his/her own life.
We can say many things in tribute to this particular man – and much has already been said. I will simply add, in the words of Mary Oliver, Robin Williams did not “end up simply having visited this world.”
Here is Mary Oliver’s When Death Comes:
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
I have come to believe that the popular and commonly used phrase “took his own life” has to be tossed onto the junk heap of many popular and disproven misconceptions. Do people with diabetes or cancer (even if they were smokers!) “take there own life”? Having been on an anti-depressant myself since 2000, I believe Robin Williams was sucked into the vortex of death by an illness he was no more capable of curing or surviving than my sister who died of cancer at age 58. “Taking one’s own life” subtly implies something volitional. It is time to change the way we speak about such tragedies — Robin Williams died from a fatal illness after a long and hellish battle of desperately trying to LIVE.